Friday, April 26, 2013

Great Gatsby 2013: What to Expect

                Baz Luhrmann is at it again-remaking a film that was perfectly fine to begin with.  Notorious for his disgraceful modernized versions of “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo and Juliet”, the director has now made his own film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby.”  A timeless love story that captures the American dream glorified during the Roaring Twenties, “Gatsby” has had two films already made based on it.  One in 1974 starring Robert Redford, Sam Waterson, and Mia Farrow, and another in 2000 with Mia Sorvino, Toby Stephens, and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway. 

                Both were fair remakes, however neither were perfect.  Nuances from the novel were overlooked.  For example, the director’s choice in the past has often been to make Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s love interest, a blonde.  Nowhere in the novel has it been mentioned that she is blonde.  In fact, she is a brunette! Her personality dictates this stereotype, and every director wants it to be known that in comparison to Jordan, she is the dumb woman of the story.  Something else that the directors have changed is

In honor of the new film coming out shortly, let’s take a look at the significant aspects of it, pre-evaluating how high expectations the teasers have fostered may not be met.  

                The casting for the 2013 adaptation is pretty spot-on with how I would envision with contemporary actors and actresses.  Leonardo DiCaprio takes on the titular role of Jay Gatsby.  His charm and versatility as an actor gives him great potential to be the mysterious Gatsby we all know and love.  The existential Nick Carraway is portrayed by Tobey Maguire.  A fitting choice, considering he has been typecast as quiet and awkward in the past, making an ideal narrator.  Carey Mulligan will be Daisy Buchanan.  She is an ideal choice for the role, as she follows the blonde-Daisy trend.  Other actors chosen include Ilsa Fischer as Myrtle, Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Elizabeth Debecki as Jordan Baker.  With an ensemble cast, it is the perfect recipe for cinematic success.   

                From what the trailers have shown us, the director wants to emphasize excess in the film.  The 1920’s was a time of buying on margin; the Stock Market was booming and people were spending more than ever.  Upon being interviewed about his interpretation, he said that he wanted to comment on society’s irresponsibility and the wealthy lifestyle many people achieved in the Roaring Twenties.  If anything, Luhrmann didn’t disappoint here.  

The parties being thrown are ridiculous.  The size of the houses is incredulous.  They are filled with butlers, swimming pools, confetti and more food and drink than one can fathom.  In Fitzgerald’s novel, Carraway vividly describes the parties Jay Gatsby would throw.  His name indeed does “sound like money.”  They were filled with fresh food, hundreds of butlers, large bands and interesting people from all over.

I also got the overwhelming feeling of passion from the trailer.  Aside from the American Dream, another motif from Fitzgerald’s novel was time lost.  Gatsby’s success and overwhelming existence is all efforts from Daisy Buchanan to fall back in love with him.  However, it is often difficult to turn back the clock and relive the past.  What’s done is done.  The embodiment of Gatsby is an elusive one, but this is the most important aspect for a successful adaptation here. 

                The soundtrack is the textbook definition of an anachronism.  If you watched the trailers from the film in mute, the visual aspect alone is breathtaking.  Excess is the name of the game, with parties rekindling the essence of a swanky shindig from decades ago.  Once you add in the music talents of Beyonce, Florence + The Machine, and Lana Del Ray, you lose all hope for 1920’s jazz music that would juxtapose with the spirit of the times.  We should have seen this coming, considering Jay-Z co-produced the soundtrack for the movie. 

Upon seeing the initial trailer in May 2012, I wasn’t thrilled with the contemporary music playing in the background.  I assumed it was a work in progress.  However, upon the release of the official music, I am sad to say it isn’t reminiscent of the glamorous jazz of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.  Anyone who was expecting something similar to “The Aviator” or “Public Enemies” soundtrack will be greatly disappointed. 

                Marketing for this film has gone through the roof.  Various companies have set up fashion lines inspired by the film.  Brooks Brothers launched a line April 15 of clothes, accessories and shoes for men.  What is interesting about this line is that Brooks Brothers was around during the 1920’s, and was one of the go-to stores for men of the time.  Fashion Weekly Magazine states that these styles  weren't simply based on 1920s style: the new duds were designed based on the brand's actual archives.”  What can be seen in the windows in their boutiques is legit as it gets, since the movie offers the same style. 

On April 17, Tiffany and Co launched a jewelry line in collaboration with Lurhmann and costume designer Catherine Martin.  The collection comprises 7 pieces: a brooch, a headpiece (both reportedly based on archival Tiffany designs), a necklace, and four different rings, including one in platinum with a 5.25-carat diamond, priced at $875,000; quite the price to pay to charade as a 1920’s fashionista.  Kudos to Luhrmann for the costume’s authenticity.  At least the actors will be costumed to perfection with all their flapper flare. 

                The opening film at the Cannes Film Festival, and premiering for the rest of the world May tenth, we can only hope for the best out of the latest adaptation of the classic novel.  Hopefully anachronisms don’t turn what could be a great film into another disappointment on Luhrmann’s behalf.  If done write, adaptations can be amazing.

                Don’t let this discourage you from seeing the film, reader.  I do have every intention of seeing the film dressed as a flapper.  Each director has their own opportunity to tell Ftzgerald’s story through their own eyes.  Luhrmann’s interpretation hopefully still captures the essence of recreating the past, while adding his own touches.  A quasi-modernization of a classic is a tedious task, and his track record has proven him unsuccessful thus far.  “Gatsby” just might be his green light across the water.     

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